Tag Archives: Beauty

Review: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

The Belles (The Belles #1)
Dhonielle Clayton
Published February 6, 2018

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About The Belles

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

My Review

Note: A few years ago, I partnered with another reviewer who reviewed THE BELLES for The Story Sanctuary. I don’t want to negate or take anything away from her review, but ever since I read the sequel, THE EVERLASTING ROSE, and found that I enjoyed it, I have been thinking of adding my own review of the first book in the series. So at last, here I am with my own review. Yay!

I really enjoyed THE BELLES. I liked the strange story world, in which tiny blimps trail perfume down hallways and balloons deliver messages. Where tiny teacup pets are all the rage.

It’s a story about powerful women who can impart beauty to others, but in a world which doesn’t allow them their own freedom.

I was a fan of Camellia from the very beginning. She’s smart and a bit impulsive, but she consistently reminds others of their value beyond beauty treatments. She tries to see the best in people. She wants to be the best.

Since this is a story that centers around beauty, I think I was prepared for it to be a shallow kind of book. Parties and glamor and fashion. And there are all those things present in the story. But I think because they’re set against this really sinister backdrop– with the Belles having so little freedom of their own, and with deeply troubling things coming to light– I felt like it had a great balance of celebrating beauty and also looking beyond it.

The relationship between Camellia and the story’s villain had me on the edge of my seat. I did not expect a lot of what happened between them. I did not expect her to be so terrifying. So, I had to keep reading because I had to know what Camellia would do.


On the whole, I really enjoyed this book– both books in the duology, actually. Dhonielle Clayton will be the author of one of the books in The Mirror series, and I’m even more excited now to read that book. (Check out my review of the series opener BROKEN WISH by Julie C. Dao.)

I think fans of THE SELECTION by Kiera Cass will love this book centered around women, power, and beauty.

Content Notes for The Belles

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Characters have various skin tones and racial characteristics, but other than the Belles, these are artificially created. The Belles themselves represent a diverse group of people. A couple of minor characters are lesbians.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content
Kisses between boy and girl and two girls. (See violent content for trigger warning.)

Spiritual Content
Belles are created by the Goddess of Beauty. Other mentions of the God of the Sky and the God of the Sea.

Violent Content – Trigger Warning for Sexual Assault
A man attacks a woman, kissing her against her will and ripping her dress. It’s clear he means to rape her and it’s later hinted that he has a long history of this kind of predatory behavior.

A woman describes another person tormenting an animal and eventually killing it. Other brief mentions of harm to animals.

A woman bullies others, including forcing a Belle to transform them in humiliating or inappropriate ways.

In a couple instances, intense beauty treatments result in the death of the person being treated.

Drug Content
Belle Rose tea acts as a pain reliever, allowing clients to endure physical transformations with less pain than they would ordinarily cause. One of Camellia’s clients brews her own, stronger elixir from the tea.

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Review: Beauty by Robin McKinley

Robin McKinley
Open Road Media
Published on November 8, 2014 (Originally published October 25, 1978)

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When Beauty’s family falls on reduced circumstances, she, her father, and two sisters move to a remote village rumored to be near an enchanted castle. Beauty and her sisters face their new lives bravely, learning to do chores and care for their new home. One night, after a long journey, their father returns home with a magical rose and a chilling story. He has met the Beast and ruler of the castle and now owes a debt: either his own life or the life of one of his daughters. Ever practical Beauty decides she must be the one to take her father’s place. But her new life in the castle turns out to be far different than anything she could have imagined. Invisible servants tend her needs, and the Beast, who seemed terrifying at first, soon becomes dear to her. A family emergency forces Beauty to choose: stay in the castle and let her sister make a terrible mistake, or risk everything to return home and warn her.

Beauty is one of the first young adult novels I ever read, and I happened upon it totally by accident in a used book stall at a flea market in the mountains of western North Carolina. I’ve since read other fairytale retellings by Robin McKinley, and have never been disappointed by any of them. Beauty used to be one of my go-to reads for those awful days when I was too sick to read and absorb something new, but still longed to escape reality in a book. It’s been years since I’ve read it, and still I couldn’t stop reading until I’d reached the end of the tale.

The style isn’t my favorite—it’s a lot more narrative than the kinds of books I usually prefer, but the descriptions are so vivid and Beauty’s character so clearly drawn that I always get sucked straight into the story anyway. This is a definite must-read for anyone who adores fairytale retellings. You’ll recognize a lot of familiar elements in other fairytales retold that authors drew from McKinley’s style and way of reimagining things. (In fact, one of my newer favorite authors who writes reimagined fairytales, Kenley Davidson, draws some inspiration from McKinley’s stories, and I think it’s one of the things that first drew me into her work.)

If you’re looking for clean young adult fiction, this is a great choice. McKinley has other books you might be interested in as well: Spindle’s End, her retelling of Sleeping Beauty; Outlaws of Sherwood, her retelling of Robin Hood; and her fantasy duo, The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown. I recommend them all.

Recommended for Ages 10 up.

Cultural Elements
Major characters are white and straight.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content
A brief kiss and a few mentions of blushing or attraction.

Spiritual Content
A couple references to prayer. One character exclaims, “Merciful God.” The Beast’s castle is populated with invisible servants which Beauty often describes as a “breeze.” She begins to hear and understand them to be individuals as her time in the castle progresses.

Violent Content

Drug Content
Wine is served with dinner.


Review: The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

The School for Good and Evil (School for Good and Evil #1)
Soman Chainani
Published on May 4, 2013

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Each year the schoolmaster collects two children from Sophie’s village. She longs to be chosen to attend the School for Good and grow up to be a fairy tale princess. Her best friend Agatha, hopes only to be left alone. When the schoolmaster comes to collect the children, Sophie is chosen, and all her dreams are about to come true.

Except the schoomaster’s servants deposit her in the School of Evil and send Agatha to the School of Good. Clearly there’s been a mistake, one Sophie will do anything to correct. Agatha agrees that something has gone horribly wrong. She is determined to find a way to escape the school with Sophie and return home to her village. But what if there is no escape? What if the schoolmaster hasn’t made a mistake, and in fact, Sophie and Agatha belong exactly where he’s sent them?

My Review

When I saw THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL sitting on the shelf in our local bookstore, my daughter and I were in the middle of the Ever After High series by Shannon Hale. While we both loved the upbeat story and its modern fairy tale feel, I liked that this series looked similar but perhaps more complex.

The story is a bit meatier than the Ever After High series, but it’s also a bit cruder. Agatha, surrounded by curious princes and princesses in the School for Good, passes gas at them to buy her time to escape. Later, she disguises herself as a roach. One of the students in the School for Evil turns rat poop into chocolate.

Over all, the message is a familiar important one. Sophie’s outward beauty isn’t what makes her good. Her shallowness and disdain for others much more heavily define her. Agatha doesn’t see herself as lovely, but her compassion and kindness mark her as a true princess.

I’m not sure that readers of Ever After High would necessarily gravitate toward THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL because the tone is so different, but definitely readers who enjoyed THE THICKETY: A PATH BEGINS by J. A. White should definitely give this one a go.

Content Notes

Profanity or Crude Language
No profanity. Brief crude references to bodily functions.

Sexual Content
In the tradition of modern fairy tales, it’s not the prince and true love’s kiss that break an evil spell. Instead, a kiss between Agatha and Sophie seals the pivotal moment. It’s less romantic and more symbolic.

Spiritual Content
Children who attend the School for Evil will grow up to be villains (including witches) in fairy tale stories. Students learn to use magic spells to bring help or harm to others.

Mild battle situations. No gore.

Drug Content

Review: A Different Me by Deborah Blumenthal

A Different Me
Deborah Blumenthal
Albert Whitman & Company
Published October 14, 2014

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Allie has only one wish for her birthday this year. She wants surgery to fix everything wrong with her. Specifically, to correct the huge problem in the middle of her face: her nose.

Through an online forum, she meets two girls also waiting for nose jobs. Together they form a sisterhood, sharing insecurities, secret hopes and dreams, and crossing off the days until their procedures.

Then a mentoring project challenges Allie to look past her initial perceptions of people. She learns that there’s more to a person than the way they look, how they dress. And she’s forced to reevaluate everything she thought she knew about herself – and everything she thought would make her happy.

Blumenthal explores the world of insecurities swirling through high school hallways, exposing them with surgical precision. Each character is presented in layers, complexities deepening as Allie gets to know him or her. She’s moved by compassion for the hurts and fears others face, and through them begins to face her own. In a world that prizes the perfect exterior, A Different Me is a breath of fresh air, a trumpeting voice bringing us back to the core truth that beauty is borne of kindness, compassion and sincerity. It’s a great story and a lesson we all need to hold dear.

Profanity or Crude Language Content
Moderate profanity, mild frequency.

Sexual Content

Spiritual Content


Drug Content

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Five Books I Couldn’t Stop Reading

In honor of summer’s approach, I wanted to do something a little different today. (A new review will be posted on Wednesday.)

When I was in school, I looked forward to the summer for all the usual reasons. One of my fond memories is taking family vacations with my family. We’d visit my grandparents in rural North Carolina and tube the creek, shop the flea market, hike in the woods and play Nintendo until deep into the night. But one of my most cherished evening activities during those lazy summer trips was reading. I’d often stumble upon an unexpected gem in one of the rundown flea market used book shops. Some of those books I read and reread until my copies came apart. Here are a few of the finds that never left me.

by Robin McKinley

In a breathtaking retelling of the classic fairytale, McKinley never fails to recapture me with the story of a girl who doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere. Even her name, Beauty, isn’t right for her. But when her family is in danger, it’s Beauty who steps forward and volunteers to go deep into the woods to live in the enchanted castle with only the terrible Beast as her companion. In the years since I found this treasure, I returned to it often when I was too sick to get out of bed. Once, I finished the story, turned the book over and began it again.


The Maestro by Tim Wynne-Jones
When life at home becomes more than Burl Crow can bear, he flees to the woods. He finds himself following the strange sight of a grand piano dangling from a helicopter and lands on the doorstep of a brilliant conductor and recluse. Their unlikely friendship challenges each to live beyond the small and safe, and though he wants nothing more than to escape his past, he must find a way to face his past before it destroys all the good the Maestro has brought to him. (Does contain moderate language and violence, as Burl’s father is physically abusive. His mother is also addicted to valium.)


Christy by Catherine Marshall
A young girl from a prosperous Asheville family volunteers to give up all the comforts of home and journey deep into the poverty of the Appalachian mountains to teach at a mission school in Cutter Gap. Though she feels armed with everything a young woman could need to teach children, Christy learns how far she is from prepared as she faces the horror of disease, ignorance, and deep-rooted family feuds. With her mentor and friend Alice Henderson at her side, she learns to see beauty in the harsh mountain lives. Every time I read this book, Christy’s spiritual journey comes alive for me again.


Hawk’s Flight by Carol Chase
Following an attack on a merchants’ caravan, Taverik Zandro discovers that his best friend and partner isn’t the man he claimed to be. In fact, he’s not a man at all. Torn between feelings of betrayal and intrique, Tav agrees to keep young Marko’s secret and join the charade, helping to hide her and her sister from an unknown enemy bent on killing them. But life for Taverik doesn’t stop getting complicated there. As he tries to uncover the identity of Marko’s enemy, word reaches him of a traitorous plot, and he finds himself on the run, soiled by his family’s sordid reputation despite his own commitment to honor. Taverik flees for his life, leaving Marko behind but vowing to find her again. (Be warned: the cover is kind of ugly, but don’t judge! Light language. Mild violence. Excellent spiritual themes.)


The Mozart Season by Virginia Euwer Wolff
As the youngest contestant in the Ernest Bloch Young Musician’s Competition, twelve year-old Allegra spends the weeks of summer before the competition practicing Mozart’s fourth violin concerto. Battling her fingers and her will, she struggles to learn balance between pleasing those she loves and being true to herself. Wolff pulls the story together beautifully toward the climax of the competition. (I can’t speak to content, unfortunately, as I don’t remember this one as well as the others.)